It’s hard to believe it’s already a month since Red Dwarf returned to our screens. Red Dwarf X is proving to be enjoyable, occasionally disappointing, but generally a worthwhile successor to the show of years gone by. Now we have Entangled, an episode that seems to sum up both the good and bad in a half hour of comedy that feels true to its roots, but never really becomes very funny.
The premise of Entangled is actually pretty good. Lister takes Starbug out to meet some local lifeforms called BEGGs and gets caught up in a game of poker. Unfortunately luck is not on his side and he loses Starbug and, in an attempt to win it back, Rimmer. This is a classic setup that gives the show some of its best moments. The crew attempt to bargain with the BEGGs but things don’t exactly work out. At the same time, Kryten and Cat are suffering from an outbreak of synchronicity, in which they both encounter extraordinary coincidences. This is funny at first but becomes less so as the episode continues until it becomes as much of an annoyance to the audience as the characters themselves.
However, Entangled starts to fall down pretty rapidly from a good opening. In an attempt to remove a device from Lister’s groin intended to do something nasty if he attempts to run away without paying his debts, the crew visit a ground breaking research facility and we reach one plot too many for a half hour show. Almost everything after this point is a waste of time and the episode never really catches up with its promising beginning. It feels a lot like the writers didn’t know where to go with the poker game plot and abandoned it halfway through. It’s a shame, because whatever was likely to have developed from there was bound to be a lot more interesting than the rushed mess that followed. I don’t want to be too down on the show. We’re certainly not in Lemons territory again, but I can’t shake the feeling that the writers were expecting a 45 minute runtime.
For long term fans, part of the annoyance of Entangled is probably going to be the most egregious use of plot recycling so far. For a start, the poker game plot is ripped right out of Emohawk. This wouldn’t be too bad except it’s really not as good as Emohawk. The BEGGs are not that different from the GELF tribe and it would probably work better if they’d just used them again. Worse still is the repackaging of the Luck Virus from series 5 in Kryten and Cat’s coincidence generating quantum entangling. The writers were clearly aiming to hit the same sort of beats, but when the coincidences start solving problems in a way that is poorly explained and (once again) seems to be pulled out of thin air, I must admit that I started to lose a little patience.
Entangled isn’t bad. It’s well written and still feels true to the characters and spirit of the show, but it feels sort of lazy. It’s not just the rehashing of old ideas that hurts it, but the general lack of effort gone into pacing and plot structure. The show has always been a sitcom and the jokes absolutely have to come before the clever sci-fi concepts, but there also needs to be a strong, clear skeleton to build those jokes around. All too quickly Entangled forgets its narrative thread in favour of an ever more ridiculous series of events that become less and less funny as the show goes on and it’s a real shame because each element would probably be interesting AND funny if it weren’t crammed into 30 minutes along with its brethren.
Entangled isn’t the worst episode of Red Dwarf X, but it’s probably the most disappointing because it could, and should, be so much better than it is.